Lockdown Blues Chasers: Revising The Remarkable Crime Thrillers, Talvar And Titli - PART 45

In the mood for some nail-biting crime thriller this weekend? We've picked out two riveting sagas for you, right here. Read on...

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Lockdown Blues Chasers: Revising The Remarkable Crime Thrillers, Talvar And Titli - PART 45
Talvar (2015) : In hindsight ,this is just the kind of cinema that we all love to love, and praise.It generates an enormous empathy for the parents of that poor slain child Arushi Talwar, though for reasons best known to the the film’s team,the murder victim’s name and the identity of all the primary characters has been altered just enough so that we know.

Also there isn’t enough of the couple in the film. As the Talwars, Konkona Sen and Neeraj Kabi offer us a vivid insight into the parents’ trauma. But finally we know very little of what they feel beyond the obvious grief.Talvar is a film that prides itself on research and detailing. And yet if you have a  maidservant with plucked eyebrows and in a chicly cut blouse opening a film that purports to tell you the truth about the Arushi Talvar murder case, you are bound to sniff something suspicious in the air.

In her pre-release interviews director Meghna Gulzar claimed Talvar was not a film exonerating the murdered girl’s parents.Wrong!This is film is pointedly designed to pitch the innocence of the  Talwars, now languishing in jail for a crime that many, for the want of a better word, referred to as “honour killing.”  In graphic sometimes cruelly ironic  detail the film wags its sensitive fingers at the the law machinery that apparently botched up the case.Everyone connected with the case barring the outgoing CBI investigator Ashvin Kumar, wanted to pin the blame on the the parents. Just why there was so  much anxiety in the official circles to make the parents seem culpable is none of the film’s concern.


Answers are hard to find in the complex of web of lies, deceptions, conspiracies and vendetta that navigate Meghna’s narrative.

In the absence of a  motive to pin a motive for the murder on the parents, Talvar seems to be mocking those who went out of their way to see Arushi’s parents in jail.(For those came in late, the Talwars are currently in jail for murdering their only daughter).The laughter at the theory suggesting how and why the Talwars killed Arushi can almost be heard in the film’s background score. Meghna Gulzar holds herself back from laughing out loud at the law enforcers. But the way the initial investigation of the murder is shown to be carried out, you can see the plot mocking the cops in parodic pleasure.One of them is a pot-bellied pan-chewing cellphone-challenged lout straight out of a ‘c’ grade crime thriller.

The hero of the show is the CBI, disguised as  ‘CDI’ , office Ashvin Kumar who while questioning the various dramatic personae in the case, likes to keep playing video games. It’s an interesting embellishment designed to create a contrast between the routine world that continues with its trashy preoccupations in the face of individual tragedy.(I am presuming it’s an embellishment , because we’ve no way of telling the fact from fiction in this film and if the director and screenwriter Vishal Bhardawaj claim it’s all true then we have to take their word for it)

Irrfan’s character holds the nebulous strands of Meghna Gulzar’s ambivalent investigative narration together. He is in fine form again, specially  in the pre-finale where he crosses talvars (pun intended) with his hostile colleagues  in the CB…sorry DI. Soham Shah is excellent as Irrfan’s turn-coat associate. And Tabu with her clenched jaws shows up as his unhappy wife only so that Meghna can pay tribute her father’s film Ijaazat.


The centrality of the murder investigation is challenged by  Vishal Bharadwaj’s multi-optional script. He tells us that the parents could be guilty only if judged by the grotesque investigation conducted initially by the bumbling cops who declare it’s an open and shut case.The plot’s sympathies are clearly with the parents who are seen as victims of a media circus fuelled by rumours gossip and speculation.

However ambivalence is not a luxury but a necessity in a film examining a real-life case waiting closure.To compare the film’s format with Akira Kurosawa’s Roshomon  is a tad illogical. Here, the multiplicity of open endings ia  hardly balanced out  into a reasonable gallery of options. The explanation that seems to appeal most to the screenplay is the one that left the law-enforcing agencies most unconvinced.

To be honest,the tragedy is too enormous to be analyzed in black and white terms. This cinematic adaptation attempts to remain non-judgmental but ends up delivering sharp knocks on the collective knuckles of the law enforcers who put the Talwars in jail after they lost their only child.

As far as unsolved whodunits go Talvar delivers a sharply-aimed blow at conventional readings of the real-life crime.Sreekar Prasad’s razor-sharp editing brings the colliding perspectives on the murder into one solidly aligned range  of vision. As Meghna Gulzar stares non-judgmentally at the wrecked lives of a well-to-do Delhi couple we get a glimpse into the terrifying emptiness at the centre of the human soul.It’s a place we seldom peer into. We have thank Talvar for taking us there.

Titli(2015):  The hammer is a favourite weapon of aggression among the characters who form the immensely unlikeable family in Titli.They use the hammer to smash faces and in one sequence to even smash the hand of a loved one.

But it’s the hammering of the individual’s self-esteem that Titli hits you  the hardest with. Titli,played by newcomer Shashank Arora, the youngest of three brother in a low-life Delhi family of car-jacking criminals, takes his newly-wedded wife to her lover, watches them disappear in the bedroom and sits quietly waiting for the couple to finish its business.

It’s a moment where the silence of anguished helplessness pierces the irony of the plot.


This is not your martyr husband Ajay Devgn from Sanjay Leeela Bhansali Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam leading his reluctant bride back to her beloved. This is  a world stripped of sublimity and grace,  of harsh coldblooded calculations where emotions are invested only on the assurance of financial benefits.

Trapped in this world of  filthy crime is Titli(Shashank Arora, a natural find) who is desperate to escape his family’s filthy life, even if it means cutting a deal with his wife to let her sleep with her lover.Titli is one of those crime-heist thrillers where the characters never appear cool in their lawless behaviour. Not for a moment does the casual almost preponderant violence  appear gratuitous , let alone appealing.

The violence of Titli made my stomach churn.It’s in the way the grimy male characters clear their throats every morning or the way they slap and sleep with their women… It was in the squalour of the environment and in the hearts of the characters  that the plot finds its centrality.

The script written jointly by director Kanu Behl and Sharat Katriya(the director of Dum Laga Ke Haisha, that other far lighter film about heavyweight problems ) is a sliver of shocking images of the cruel misdeeds of a ‘normal’ low middleclass Delhi family for whom crime is a way of life. Their actions may shock us. For them it’s just another day of hard work.

Beyond all its outstanding merits(including a near-absence of background music which imbues a docu-grittiness to the brutal goings-on) is  the film’s absolute denial of a moral code for its principal characters. This is The Godfather without the Sicilian bravura.


In this family of criminals, the conscience is an unwanted intruder. Yet it does strike at the end. Our ‘hero’ Titli finds a shuddering redemption at the end. But I remained unconvinced. You can take the Titlis of the metropolis out of crime,but can you really take the crime out of such characters?

Titli  left me too stunned to move. Numbed with shock and disbelief,Titli mirrors the underbelly reality of Delhi with a blunt brutality that leaves you shocked, spellbound.  This is the story of a criminal family in a crowded locality of Delhi where ambitions are smothered in the stench of decaying dreams.

....Sorry, I am getting lyrical  over a film that scoffs at all lyricism . The language is so violent that I often found myself turning away, not in disgust, but terror, and fear of  a life that we don't talk about. Not in our everyday conversations. Not even in our movies.

Dare I say  Titli is cinema at its rawest?  Other than Ranveer Shorey who is absolutely first rate as the eldest of the three crime-time siblings, there are no known faces in the cast.

And that's a masterstroke, I don't think the film would have worked so effectively if Bollywood's recognizable faces had walked into Kanu Behl's tightly-wound low-income lower-morality underbelly of Delhi where everything is about survival,, love loyalty family values and conscience....who gives a damn as long as the next instalment for  real estate in the mall is served up on time.

Titli takes us into a dark desperate squalid world. For two hours I felt smothered, suppressed .. Now when the film is over I can't get Shashank Arora's look of a haunted animal out of my mind. This is the kind of film that speaks a direct and devastating language. It is a film that takes away a part of you and leaves you with something vital in return.

It would be insulting to congratulate the ….errr….actors.Because they are not.They are people who have experienced life at its most basic , have known hunger shame and deprivation and desperation, who feel real emotions and have probably lived some of the murky situations that the plot forces them to explore.

A word about the absolutely technique-less technique applied to the film. No fancy framing of the shots, none of characters caught in the ‘right’ light….It all unfolds as though Siddharth Dhawan’s  camera doesn’t exist and Namrata  Rao’s editing was done so quietly the characters didn’t even know portions of their lives had gone missing .

Interestingly the soundtrack includes a lot of bhajans playing in the background to provide a savagely ironic subtext to the abysmally immoral lives led by the characters.An absolutely unforgettable film.




Image source: youtube/IMDb/Huffpost
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